Incredible India!

23 Dec

IMG_0814In my role as editor of Early Childhood Matters, I was privileged to launch the latest edition, on “Small children, big cities”, at a conference in Delhi with the same theme. This was my first trip to India, and the relevance of the theme was very clear from when I first arrived in the city – there were construction projects everywhere, while roadsides are adorned with romantic adverts for new housing aimed at India’s fast emerging middle class.

Although wealth is growing in India, poverty remains widespread. Following the Delhi conference, we flew on to Hyderabad to visit project partners whose work had featured in a previous edition of Early Childhood Matters. With our support, Aide et Action runs early childhood centres for children of migrant construction workers, who often slip through the nets of official systems. It was clear that the parents of these children face tough working and living conditions and need all the support they can get. Continue reading

Why we need to talk to babies more

18 Nov

Why we need to talk to babies more
The baby diaper market — led by Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark — is projected to reach USD 52.2 billion by 2017. As the market grows, so does the investment in technology. In a recent article about the industry, Lauren Coleman Lochner paints a portrait of scientists in lab coats using saline solution to identify ‘pee-points’ on the quest for a perfect diaper. No leaks, no rash. As fathers, we appreciate this commitment to excellence, but we also have a simple, inexpensive, low-tech request to the CEOs of the leading diaper producers — help us remember to talk to our babies.

Read Michael Feigelson & Marcos Nisti’s blog on World Economic Forum.

Renske Keizer, first appointed Professor on Fatherhood

3 Nov
Renske Keizer, Professor on Fatherhood

Renske Keizer, Professor on Fatherhood

Renske Keizer started on 1 September in her new role of Professor on Fatherhood at the University of Amsterdam. She will conduct research on the influence of father involvement on developmental outcomes of children, teach courses on fatherhood and supervise PhD students on this topic. With a background in family sociology and demography, and by adding additional insights from the pedagogical and economic literature, she will provide a unique perspective on father involvement, specifically in the Netherlands.

Why is the Bernard van Leer Foundation supporting the specially appointed Professor on Fatherhood in the Netherlands? Continue reading

Cinekid: the ‘biggest digital playground’

23 Oct
Kids enjoying installation MurMur at the Cinekid MediaLab

Kids enjoying installation MurMur at the Cinekid MediaLab

Last week the 28th edition of the annual Cinekid Festival took place in Amsterdam and several other locations in the Netherlands. The Bernard van Leer Foundation sponsored this movie, television and new media festival for kids, also known as the ‘biggest digital playground’. And this year we made sure parents of the youngest kids knew exactly how to get the most out of their visit…

For more than 25 years, Cinekid has been striving to promote the production of high-quality media for children, to ensure that special media productions are accessible to them and to involve the young target audience actively and creatively in media. One of the main reasons why the Bernard van Leer Foundation is funding Cinekid is to create demand for better quality early learning through new media, which we believe is an underemphasized field of attention. Media knowledge for young kids nurtures “21st century workforce skills” such as exploration, trial and failure, logical thinking, problem solving and creativity, which are increasingly important as the nature of the world, and the workplace, changes at an accelerating rate. Continue reading

A visit to Lingeka, Tanzania

20 Oct
Mother from the farmer’s/parenting group

Mother from the farmers’/parenting group

I am just back from a visit to Lingeka, in the Shinyanga region of Tanzania. I was there at the invitation of ICS to visit communities who have been implementing their Skilful Parenting programme.

ICS have an unusual approach, in which the entry point and initial focus of their parenting work in communities is agribusiness and improving farming practices. They provide training to farmers on agricultural techniques, offer the means to purchase improved quality fertiliser and seed, and provide access to a fairer market for selling their produce. This enables farmers to better provide for their own food and increase their income. Continue reading

Leverage: Just Another Fancy Word?

10 Oct

Leverage_just another fancy word
The president of a foundation in Europe recently shared with me a conversation she had about “strategic philanthropy” where she questioned whether the concept was anything more than the affirmation of common sense dressed in fancy words. The same may turn out to be the case for the notion of “leverage”— a term that I hear increasingly to describe how foundations can achieve the greatest social change. Be that as it may, if we can find ways to increase the impact of philanthropic resources, it merits discussion.

Read Michael Feigelson’s blog on Stanford Social Innovation Review.

A Dutch view on the CATS Conference in Caux, Switzerland

19 Aug

CATS conference, CauxWe are travelling in a small train on the final part of our journey from Amsterdam to Switzerland. Our suitcases are packed in a carriage at the front. We go higher and higher. Once in a while there is a descent, because of a valley. The sights are becoming more beautiful by the minute. There is fog around the mountains and if you look closely you can see the snow on the top of them. And then suddenly, when we are almost at the top, there it is: the beautiful castle. Here we are, an eleven-strong group of ladies in a beautiful location with a beautiful goal: to actively participate and brainstorm at the CATS conference. But what is CATS exactly?

Well, it is not about sweet and cuddly little cats, as you may think. No, this is serious business. CATS stands for Children as Actors for Transforming Society. In other words: children will think of ways in which society can work better for them. This is the second time this conference has been organised, with children from all over the world coming to the castle to share their experiences and ideas. Continue reading

Shaping of children’s dreams at an International Platform

6 Aug

Children as Actors for Transforming Society conferenceLast month, with support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, seven children from the slums of Odisha, India, attended the Children as Actors for Transforming Society (CATS) conference in Caux, Switzerland. Read about their experiences in a blog post by Aishwarya Das Pattnaik of the Humara Bachpan Campaign. You can read this blog here.

Investing in young children makes good business sense

1 Aug

Investing in young children makes good business sense

In 2007, The Lancet medical journal published an article stating that more than 200 million children under five fail to reach their potential in cognitive development because of poverty, poor health and nutrition, and lack of responsive caregiving. This statistic made the rounds in the worlds of public health, education and other segments of society generally focused on the welfare of our youngest citizens. Unfortunately, it did not achieve the same degree of penetration among one of the most powerful global communities — business leaders. Why?

Read Michael Feigelson’s blog for The Guardian.

A visit to Kumi district, Uganda

16 Jul

Early steps UgandaOn a recent trip to Uganda I had the privilege of visiting Kumi district, in the east of the country. Kumi is one of three districts in Uganda where the Bernard van Leer Foundation is supporting Early Steps, a project run by the Private Sector Foundation Uganda where communities have formed village savings and loans groups. Willing community members come together once a week to save, take out loans, and repay these loans with interest. The groups are self-managed, and members invest the additional income as they choose.

I was given a rapturous reception; for the short period that the project has been running to date, it has made a big impact on people’s wellbeing and they were eager to share their stories through singing and dance. VSLA members in the communities that I met are using the additional income to invest in a variety of areas including seeds and livestock, providing milk or eggs or vegetables to sell and consume, medical care for their children, and small businesses such as selling solar-generated power. Continue reading


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